Community Diary: Junior Achievement is looking for business professionals to connect with kids


Local business groups organized a networking event with Junior Achievement of Maine to recruit more volunteers to educate youth about job readiness and financial literacy to fulfill the organization’s mission.

Members of Startup Maine, Maine Accelerates Growth and Maine Angels were among 100 people gathered March 9 at the Portland headquarters of payment processing firm Wex from Navis Cafe for food and drinks and short presentations about junior success. 14 people signed up for more information about volunteering.

“Our young people don’t know all the opportunities in the workforce,” said Cathy Shorey, president of Startup Maine and a Junior Success volunteer. “They want to hear about what we’re doing and how we got there. For people in the startup space, it’s an easy way to give back.”

Six hundred volunteers lead Junior Success Maine programs in 140 Maine schools, reaching nearly 12,000 K-12 students from Kittery to Fort Kent.

“Junior Achievement does a lot to inspire kids to become financially literate, career-ready entrepreneurial thinkers,” said President Michelle Anderson. “We are a bridge between education and the workforce so that children understand the importance of their education and what they can do in the future.”

Junior Achievement provides curriculum and training, and volunteers bring the program to life with their work experience and lessons learned.

“Students don’t really want to talk about what I do,” says Tom Morgan, owner of Breakthrough Sales Solutions. “They want to hear why I’m doing it and how I chose to get there. So many students are interested in the entrepreneurial journey and starting their own business. They ask a lot of questions.”

Ryan Kelley, a bankruptcy attorney with Pierce Atwood, leads financial education classes in middle and high schools. “Many other financial education programs start in high school or college,” he said. But economic concepts can and should be learned at earlier stages.

Morgan and Kelly volunteered at the Maine Titan Challenge Jr. of Achievement with 300 students playing at seven venues on April 5. Students take their company through a series of competitions and games that represent three years of business.

“When I was teaching a class at Westbrook, a student decided to do their entire production in the first quarter,” Morgan said. “They had a year’s worth of supplies. But in the second quarter they had to lay off all their production staff and their corporate social responsibility results went into the tank. These students are learning that the choices they make to run their own business have an impact not only on the business itself, but on employees and the community and government.

Amy Paradise is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. You can find her in the morning[email protected]

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